"Everyone Has Their Dark Side"


Foo Fighters in the lot of 606
He is rich, successful and happily married. But Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl was still driven into therapy.

There is evidence of the town planners' set square and ruler all over Northridge, California. This bland but sunny university town, 20 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles, is an incongruous place for the Foo Fighters to have built a new HQ.
  "Northridge is also the porn film capital of the world," says Grohl, trying to sound detached and informative, but succumbing to a big grin. "I looked at a lot of warehouses round here and thought, Do I want to record my album right where people have been taking it in the ass?"
  In the end the answer was no. Grohl built his studio on a site on a residential street which has a macabre provenance all its own. It was, he says, the home of a woman whose stalker turned up one night and burned the place to the ground. The Foo Fighters bought the charred plot last spring with walls and foundations in place, and did much of the woodwork and decor themselves.
  "You don't want to just write a cheque and say, OK, give me an Abbey Road," Grohl says, lovingly patting the wood trim of the studio control room. "You want to feel a part of it."
  They've certainly made themselves at home: Studio 606 is a citadel to men and rock. Blokey trucks, SUVs and sports models line up in the car park. In the office is a ping-pong table and pinball machine. Brit model Kelly Brook offers up a bonanza of chesty delights from a calendar on the wall.
  The only hint of hierarchy are the pIgeon-holes: Grohl gets his own. Drummer Taylor Hawkins, bassist Nate Mendel and guitarist Chris Shiflett share one. Outside the studio door, rock heritage and Grohl's life suddenly coalesce: gold and platinum discs commemorating Nirvana and Foo Fighters sales amount to 30 million album sales before you give up counting. And then a photo of happy days - Grohl, Krist Novoselic and Kurt Cobain lounging on chairs: floppy, bright-eyed, untainted.
  The new double album In Your Honor is, he says, a kind of return to innocence, "the music I've wanted to make since I was 18. The rock album is a Reading setlist. And on the acoustic album we're The Eagles. We're totally reinvented."
  Well, up to a"point. The most compelling new track is Friend Of A Friend, a new recording of the song Grohl wrote about Kurt Cobain after moving in with him in Olympia, Washington, in 1990. "I just knew you were going to jump on that," he says.

Making the last album you went off in a huff and toured with Queens Of The Stone Age. This time you had to build an out-of-town leisure centre before recording. Why?
We did One By One in Virginia and I'm very proud we made that album in a basement with sleeping bags nailed to the wall and a keg in the bathroom and it won a Grammy. But there was a time making One By One when I thought, "This is our last album", and thought I'd just go back and be a drummer. But I missed what we do too much. And to really make it family I decided we'd need... a giant fucking playground!

On the acoustic album you duet with Norah Jones on a supper club bossa nova.
That's right. The song is a few years old. I'm always writing stuff that doesn't fit with the Foo Fighters' supposed sound. The acoustic album was my chance and I thought Norah would sound great on it. When we recorded it I thought, "This doesn't sound like the Foo Fighters," and Nate said, "Well, that's why it should go on the record."

Some people will think you're nuts.
Tough titties.

You got married in 2003. Is the acoustic album a concession to the missus? "You can have Josh Homme but I want Norah Jones on there."
No, [my wife] Jordan didn't get me to duet with Norah Jones on the record. I love her voice. She came down on Valentine's Day. We cleaned up, stashed the porn, put some flowers in the studio and she wafted in and did the whole thing in two hours. She is extraordinary.

Did she use the wireless internet in the lobby? The password is "pussy"...
Come on, dude. This is the home of a rock band. People coming here know what to expect.

Would you flinch if you went to Norah's studio and her access code was "cock"?
Aw, dude, give me a break. No... she wouldn't... of course not!

There's a theme emerging. Half of you answers to the primitive call of rock. And then the emotional richness of the acoustic album is your feminine side.
Yeah, the first is my Jack-and- Coke record. I'm 36 now and I realise I cannot live witpout that. The second is my Sapphire-and- Martini-with-Kylie record.

I heard you went to the Motorhead 30th anniversary party and got absolutely hammered and missed your morning yoga session with your wife...
True. I was totally destroyed. You try aligning your chakra after a gallon of whisky. But the thing is I still tried. I can do both.

How will you reconcile all these different sides of you at your next barbecue? For example, would you warn Lemmy off Norah Jones if they met?
I'd strongly advise her against dating the guy, yeah. The age difference is about 40 years, dude, and that's impossible. Age matters, it really does. Eight years is the max. If it's any more than 10 years, then it's a generation.

Dave on the roof of 606 What's the age difference between you and Jordan?
Eight years. But let me say I am the immature one, straight off. Her generation are very together and have it sussed. I'm the slouch.

The lyrics to In Your Honor sound like marriage vows set to caveman riffs: "What's mine is yours/I would die for you tonight".
Oh, well, it's not about my wife. It's actually for the people who are suffering under the Bush government. I travelled round the Midwest with John Kerry and I was almost in tears meeting people in places like Madison, Wisconsin, seeing that they were desperate for hope, for help.

Your dad is a Republican speech writer, isn't he?
Yeah, he was a journalist and campaign manager and speech-writer. He worked for [Washington DC news agency] Scripps Howard. My dad's a very smart man but very conservative. My mum is a liberal schoolteacher. When I did the Kerry thing I thought he'd go nuts but he sent me a message saying, "I don't agree with you but I'm proud you're standing up for something you believe in."

You always seem wary of the slightest Nirvana allusion in interviews. People will be surprised to see Friend Of A Friend on the album.
I am a bit concerned what people will make of that. But also I didn't want to edit myself. I recorded it, people thought it was a powerful song and so there it is.

It's an eerie observation of Kurt and you'd only known him a few weeks, hadn't you?
Yes, I'd just moved in with Kurt. I didn't know anybody. I had a drum set packed in one box and flew up there. I would stay up till the sun came up and sleep all day. Olympia, Washington, is fucking depressing enough and I was living with this person that I didn't know. But he had a four-track so I wrote songs: Marigold and Friend Of A Friend. It was an observation of Kurt and Krist and I.

To write, "He's never been in love/But he knows just what love is/He says, Never mind, and no one speaks" about a man you barely knew seems eerie, prescient now.
Maybe. You shoulda lived there, dude. [Starts drumming his fingers manically. He does this whenever Cobain's name comes up.]

You feel uncomfortable?
Yeah... kinda. It's tough because I played [acoustic album opener] Still for a Japanese journalist and it contains the word Nevermind. Even just the word makes people flinch or get worked up. So, yes, I feel uncomfortable because it's very personal and the one thing that everyone expects. That's what I don't like. I write a song and it's [wheedling child's voice], "Is this about fucking Courtney or Kurt? Courtney or Kurt?" You know, there have been a few other people in my life that That I have been in love with or that I fucking hate, they're not all about Kurt and Courtney.

Did you ever play Friend Of A Friend to Kurt?
No. I don't think I did. Probably not.

The lyrics to DOA - "There's nothing like the taste of sweet decline/What a shame we have to die, my dear" - don't sound like chirpy Dave Grohl.
Fuck, I feel like that all the time. Just as much as I'm a musician, I can be an actor and politician too. I'm very good at looking after everyone and being nice and making people comfortable. I love making people feel good. Doesn't mean I'm the fucking happiest person in the world.

So when did you last get in a strop, kick the cat?
[Smart-arse wheedling voice] I would never hurt a kitty cat. There have been moments making this album when I have questioned what I am doing with my life and whether I am a good person or not. There's always self-loathing.

Who do you talk to about it?
I take it to the album. I don't wanna bum anyone out. I've had my therapy, brother. I've done my sessions when I let it all out.

Eight months ago I went back to therapy... after Kurt died I went into therapy and as a teenager I did. Everyone has their dark side and I've done my share of looking into it. I get down but I'm not a fucking mess.

What made you go back eight months ago?
I'm not telling fucking Q magazine what I talk about in my therapy session!

Did the band go too?
No fucking way. Like Metallica? Now that's a bad idea. Go to counselling with your spouse by all means, but with your heavy metal band? That's bullshit. You got a problem just say it or keep your fucking mouth shut. You don't need a guy in a sweater on $40,000 a week to tell you what to do.

But you're a father figure and healer - averting war between The Darkness and Lemmy.
Ah, my shining hour of diplomacy. The Darkness played at the Henry Fonda Theater in Los Angeles and afterwards we went to the Rainbow Room for a drink. Justin told me the band had a beef with Lemmy. So I called Lemmy on the cell. He lives a block away. Lemmy had said he didn't like Justin's voice and Justin had said something back. You know... playground crap. Probably you or some other fucking journalist stoking it all up and making work for Uncle Dave. But I sat them down with a coupla drinks and - hey presto! - you got a monsters of rock summit.

Tell me about getting John Paul Jones on the album.
I asked him to play on the record and he called me. I know I sound ridiculous but some bands are like a religion to me. Led Zeppelin are just... I ran around the room screaming, "Guess who I just fucking got a call from?" Then he asked if I'd like to sit on his table when they were being inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. This wasn't Puff Daddy and fucking Gwen Stefani, this was Jerry Lee Lewis and Don Cornelius and Jimmy Page. That was the most special event of my life. I sat there with the Joneses and [John Bonham's kids] Jason and Zoe Bonham and Jimmy Page.

Couldn't you work the Uncle Dave magic on Led Zeppelin - "You guys get back together and, hey, I'll play drums"?
Are you kidding me? I was sitting next to Jason Bonham who is a wizard on the drums. John Paul Jones played mellotron on a track for the album sessions and I was drumming. We left it off the album cos it didn't fit but that is the nearest I will ever get to playing in Led Zeppelin.

People just won't let great bands die, will they?
Ha! Next question.

The Gus Van Sant film [based on Kurt Cobain's last days]... Do you feel, "Oh God, here we go again?"
No I don't. For me, Nirvana and Kurt and Krist and all that is in a certain place, which is guarded and sacred and my own. It's different from yours or theirs [the film-makers]. It's real. All the other stuff is fuelling "the legend" and it's entertainment. I assume it will all be wrong. If it's by people who weren't there, how can it be anything other? Gus Van Sant has made some great movies but I won't be going to see it, much less sitting there yelling, "Hey, that guy doesn't look like me!"

Is there more Nirvana music in the vaults?
We didn't write 40 songs and use 12 of them. We wrote 12 and that's what we recorded. There may be more from the early years or Kurt's four-track demos, but who knows? From my time not a lot of fat was trimmed.

He's been dead over 10 years. Do retrospectives and bios stop you feeling it's "over"?
I never feel like it's over. There's always going to be something else. Maybe not like Tupac, you know, with three albums a year. But the powers that be want to make sure it lasts forever.

You're still drumming on the sofa.
It's cheaper than cigarettes.

By now, Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins is in the studio, swishing round his kit. Grohl walks through the office. It was here on the wall I that he first pinned a wish list of people he wanted on the album. "I could hear them reading it, going, John Paul Jones. Cool. Josh Homme. Cool. Norah fucking Jones??!!"
  Out in the sunshine of the studio parking lot, Grohl pulls on a cigarette. He knows Foo Fighters fans will love the first album but maybe not the second. He knows a new acoustic demographic may inadvertently blow their stereos to smithereens when they decide to check out the first. It's all part of the ongoing Foo Fighters experiment, part of exploring the two sides of Dave Grohl. He puffs hard and the nicotine seems to give him an empire-building rush. "I'm gonna have the weirdest fuckers come through this gate to record. I wanna see Kylie and Ry Cooder out here shooting hoops together. The Darkness and Robbie fucking Williams over there at the barbie. Dude, this is a whole new chapter of 'What the fuck?'"